Evidence: Rape Shield Statutes

In State v. Hudlow, the Washington State Supreme Court interpreted Washington State’s rape shield statute to grant a trial court the discretion to exclude prior sexual conduct evidence that is relevant to a defendant proving consent, but only when such evidence is minimally relevant, and the probative value of such evidence substantially outweighs the potential prejudice to the truth-finding process itself. According to the testimony of the two teenage complaining witnesses identified as Tammy Smith and Ellen Strong to protect their identities, they were hitchiking in Bremerton, Washington, when they accepted a ride from the defendants, Allen Dale Hudlow and Douglas B. Harper. Hudlow allegedly threatened the women with a knife and drove the complaining witnesses to an isolated location outside Bremerton where the complaining witnesses were forced to perform sexual intercourse and oral sex upon the defendants. The complaining witnesses testified that Hudlow was armed with a six-inch knife and that they submitted to sexual activity in order to prevent injury to themselves.

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J. Phillip Tall, Evidence: Rape Shield Statutes, 19 Gonz. L. Rev. 437 (1983),

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